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Dierk Schmidt

Press release

Dierk Schmidt – Kolonnen. Hohenzollern Ist Jetzt Ein Verb

It’s a hot potato, that restitution business. The formerly colonized demand the return of the cultural assets that were stolen from them during the colonial era or that entered German collections in questionable ways. The Federal Republic, for its part, argues that it isn’t all quite so simple—and actually rebuilds the old palace of the Prussian rulers who helped write a chapter of the history of colonialism. Renamed in honor of Humboldt, the building is destined to become a repository for those same cultural assets.

And now this. In 2013—the ground had just been broken for the reconstruction of the Berlin City Palace—the former lords of the manor, the Prussian princes of the House of Hohenzollern, came out of the woodwork to demand their own restitution: 5,000 pieces from the former crown estate now held by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, 266 paintings by Lucas Cranach and others—all this and much more, they claimed, was rightfully theirs. For good measure, they wanted to move back into Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam with its 176 rooms. The Soviets’ seizure of the family seat after the war and its transfer to public—which is to say, our collective—ownership, they argued, was unlawful, and so they wanted it back.